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Jennifer Harmon Athlete Ambassador

by Alexandra Parren
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Jennifer started out as a dancer but found the sport of triathlon as a means of rehabilitating injuries. She talks to Sundried about training and motivation.

Have you always been into sport?

Yes, sport has always been a central theme in my life and I attribute sport for keeping me so mobile now!  I swam and ran with my dad before I was old enough to join a team. I thank him for teaching me to build a strong body.

Of course, I joined many teams as I grew older and only left them when I discovered a passion for dance.  I trained and danced throughout my youth, only leaving the path to professional after a fracture in my vertebrae and multiple dislocations left me unable to keep up with the demands of training.  I embraced Pilates and yoga over the next decade until I finally had surgery to repair my spine.  My surgeon recommended cycling as a recovery tool, and I only wish I had pursued cycling sooner!

What made you decide to enter the world of triathlon?

I needed to find a way to strengthen my entire body in the most balanced way possible.  I was somewhat active in Pilates and yoga, but I was craving more endurance and cardio.  I had recently been diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndromes and was encouraged to build up endurance sports to condition my autonomic system.  I was told to condition my body to the best of my ability to not only assist my nervous system, but to build muscle and endurance to do the job my connective tissues cannot do.

I remember watching the Ironman World Championships in Kona on television as a young child and I remember taking that into my daily life at the time.  I remember pretending I was racing during my evening jogs around the neighbourhood with dad or zooming around on my pink and purple bike.  I needed a big goal after so many years of not having one (after leaving dance) and the daily increasing pain from Ehlers-Danlos as my body had de-conditioned.  I signed up for an Ironman 70.3 and threw myself into training.

I found multiple workouts a day refreshing and reminded me of my years of dance where I spent all day in the studio.  I also noticed that the three sports began to build muscle around many of my problem joints, and the pain slowly began lessening as my muscles took over.  I feel my best when I am training.

That first race solidified that triathlon will forever hold a place in my life.  The atmosphere and the community were electric and I was pinching myself because I was there.  I had built up from bed rest and being unable to stand straight to finishing a 70.3.

What’s been your favourite race to date and why?

Lanzarote 70.3 was incredible.  The volunteers astounded me at every station and along the course.  They were relentless in their support!  The encouragement from not only the spectators and volunteers, but the breathtaking views along the course had me enamoured.  It is such a special place with such special people and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to visit and to do a little swim, bike, and run.

And your proudest achievement?

I think my proudest achievement to date would be starting the race at Lanzarote 70.3.  I had been stuck in bed for the four weeks leading up to the race with a flare-up of symptoms.  I had a good block of training before then; yet during those four weeks, I barley managed a walk and an easy indoor trainer ride most days.  My husband and I decided to go on the trip since it was paid and simply treat it as vacation with the hope of some sunshine therapy.

As race day grew closer I was consumed by the electricity in the air and the kindness of everyone we met.  My husband has encouraged me through missed races before and knows how disappointing it can be, so he encouraged me to “go for a swim” with a few hundred friends and then see if I felt like a bike ride.  I did.  Once I started that race, I knew I would finish.  It was my slowest time, by far, but frankly that day was never about time anyway.

Have you ever had any racing disasters/your toughest race yet?

I have completed three 70.3 races and one Xterra; yet I cannot say that I have actually “raced” any of them.  I have thoroughly enjoyed every race to date and look forward to being fit enough to actually race in the future.  I am sure I have plenty of disasters by many standards, but the unexpected is part of what I love most about training and racing.  The disasters teach me that I am stronger than I think.

How do you overcome setbacks?

Usually I go for a bike ride and I try to clear my head.  I aim to find something to take my breath away.  There is something about the emotion of complete awe that helps to reset my expectations.  Overcoming setbacks is a process as they are never easy.  I am learning that I may not be physically able to do everything I initially wanted in my life; yet the plan I may have had for my life can never be as great as the one this life has planned for me.

What advice do you wish you'd been given before you started competing?

Sign up for a race as soon as you know you want to do it…they do sell out.

What are your goals for 2019?

I would like to actually “race” an event this year. I have a big race calendar set for 2019, so I am working to arrive at every race healthy and to truly enjoy each day.

Who do you take your inspiration from?

I am inspired by, you, the community around me.  Everyone has fought through something to be at a start line, or even to make it to a workout.  You all keep showing up and doing your best on the day despite challenges most of us know nothing about.

What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?

I think it is about time that companies embrace a business model conscious of ethical production.  Fitness is medicine and the personal trainers at Sundried are leading by example.  I am thrilled to be associated with such a team!

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